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The BBC's Aruna Iyenga
"It will be next year until you can get a Playstation 2 in the shops"
 real 56k

Friday, 24 November, 2000, 11:13 GMT
Playstation 2 sweeps into Europe
Crowds in Paris scrambled for the new games console
Crowds in Paris scrambled for the new games console
Half a million Playstation 2 (PS2) games consoles are going on sale across Europe on Friday - but most of them are already sold before they even hit the stores.

The launch of the 128-bit consoles with built-in DVD players had already been delayed because of a shortage of supplies - especially computer chips - at Sony's only PS2 factory near Tokyo.


We would not have delayed the launch in Europe for a month, which cost us a lot of money, if we had had the quantities we requested from Tokyo

Chris Deering, Sony Europe
So far, demand has dramatically outstripped supply, and Sony's marketing machine did not hesitate to stoke the shopping frenzy by touting an advance booking scheme as the only way to guarantee delivery before Christmas.

In the UK, shoppers have been promised 165,000 consoles - down from the original quota of 200,000 machines. They are to be sold for 300 each.

Friday also sees the launch of PS2 in the Middle East, Africa and Australasia.

Bottlenecks

In other European countries, video game enthusiasts face similar bottlenecks.


Demand has exceeded supply across Europe
In France, there are 70,000 consoles available, and just 20,000 of them will be sold over the counter outside the pre-pay advance booking system.

There a playstation will cost 2,990 Francs or 455 euros.

Chris Deering, the man in charge of Sony Computer Europe, said: "We would not have delayed the launch in Europe for a month, which cost us a lot of money, if we had had the quantities we requested from Tokyo".

Slow roll-out

According to industry analysts, Europe is the world's largest market for games consoles, but it is the last major market to get delivery of Playstation 2.

And it is also being priced considerably higher in Europe than in either the United States or Japan.
PlayStation 2 prices
US: $299
Japan: $360
Germany: $403
France: $414
UK: $450

Its predecessor, the first Playstation, has been particularly popular in the UK and Ireland, where respectively 23% and 31% of all homes own a Sony console.

Sony launched PS2 first in the company's home market, Japan, in March this year. In less than four weeks, the company sold 1.4m PS2s. By October, it had sold more than 3.5m units.

In North America, Playstation 2 was launched at the end of October, amidst a midnight shopping frenzy. In just one weekend, ecstatic Playstation fans carried home 500,000 PS2 consoles.

Rivals

Playstation 2's main competitor right now is Sega's Dreamcast machine.

Playstation 2 game - GT3 screenshot
PS2 promises a new gaming experience
Unlike the Dreamcast, PS2 has no internet connection, although it is promised to be added in 2001 or 2002, once broadband web access is widely available.

But Sony's console has a DVD player, which could potentially turn it into the core of a home entertainment system.

Sony's arch rival, Nintendo, is not expected to launch its next-generation console before late next year.

The big unknown is a new entrant to the field, Microsoft. The company has announced plans for its very own games machine, the X box.

During this holiday season, Dreamcast and Playstation can dominate the market, although Sony is handicapped by its production problems.

But next year could turn out to be crucial for the outcome of the games console wars, once Nintendo finally delivers its long delayed 128-bit machine, and mighty Microsoft shows the strength of its hand.

For Sony and its rivals, a lot is at stake. Revenues from Playstation sales are already accounting for 28% of the company's net profits.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Business
Duty row over new-era games console
07 Sep 00 | Business
PlayStation 2 available - to order
13 Sep 99 | The Company File
Sony's new weapon: Playstation 2
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